The Korea Herald


Cryptocurrency exchange closedown still option: finance minister

By Bae Hyun-jung

Published : Jan. 16, 2018 - 17:52

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Uncertainty in South Korea concerning cryptocurrency regulations continues, with the finance minister reiterating his vow to curb speculations, while a petition by disgruntled investors awaits an official reply from the presidential office.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon on Tuesday said that the suggestion to close down cryptocurrency exchanges is still an option under consideration, despite anticipated side effects.

“(The government) shall come up (with cryptocurrency market regulations) in the near future, keeping its eye on the big picture,” Kim said in a radio interview with TBS.

Speaking in a radio broadcast for the first time since taking office in June last year, the nation’s top economic policymaker addressed key pending issues, especially the cryptocurrency regulation.

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

“(Closing down cryptocurrency exchanges) is still one of the valid options on the table, but requires in-depth discussion among ministries,” Kim said, citing possible side effects such as the overseas outflow of capital.

The deputy prime minister refrained from elaborating on the issue, in an apparent attempt to maintain neutrality between those calling for strong government intervention and those advocating free market principles.

“The Justice Ministry, being in charge of law enforcement, may lean toward stronger measures,” Kim added, referring to Justice Minister Park Sang-ki’s claim last week that the government is aiming at shutting down all virtual currency operators here.

Though the scenario was one of various alternative solutions brought up during government task force meetings, the premature announcement caused confusion to the market, he explained.

“We apologize that as a government we failed to deliver a coherent message on the issue,” the chief official said, vowing for improvement.

Despite the finance minister’s efforts to steady the market, however, anxious investors rushed to have their voices heard by the presidential office, demanding for a suspension of recent regulatory actions.

A post on Cheong Wa Dae’s online petition bulletin board titled “No to cryptocurrency regulations -- Has the government ever allowed the people to dream?” had garnered more than 200,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, fulfilling its requirement as as an official policy proposal.

The presidential office has made it a rule that an official reply is to be made to any petition that gathers 200,000 signatures within 30 days.

The Blue House has so far refrained from commenting directly or formally on the cryptocurrency issue, merely clarifying last week that Justice Minister Park’s disputed remarks on the closedown was not yet a final plan. 

Meanwhile, due to unease over the unpredictability of government regulations, a considerable number of investors has turned to short-term speculative investments, according to industry observers.

“I started investing in bitcoin in the early stages, in a belief that that the virtual currency may become a valuable and sustainable alternative to conventional financial systems,” said an investor surnamed Kim.

“My plan was to make a long-term investment in the future technology, but after witnessing the versatility of the market in the wake of fluctuating government policies, I decided to sell off bitcoin and resort to less risky short-term deals.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (